Is America a Christian nation? What if one of our Presidents had been a Primitive Baptist from Tennessee? Should he have felt right about insisting that no citizen play musical instruments in church or hand out temperance society tracts?
Would Americans have approved of anyone who had insisted that we were, and should act like, a Primitive Baptist nation? A Baptist nation? A Protestant nation? A Christian nation?
Actually, in the greater scope and scale of history, this continent has only very, very recently changed from being a collection of native tribal civilizations. We are presently a diverse nation of immigrants.
The framers of our constitution were careful to draft a secular document that gives our government authority drawn exclusively from the people. It is structured to actively resist the overriding influence of any special-interest group without having to resort to another revolution.
Our elected President is expected to represent all Americans. He is responsible for managing a civil society that protects life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us. Modern civilizations like ours work best when no social class, race, religion, or business interest is allowed to cause others to be oppressed.
President Obama does, in fact, have the benefit of teaching constitutional law for over a decade. This has given him a profound understanding of the balances that must be maintained for the health and growth of this nation.
As for Obama’s personal faith, Christianity Today published an interview in 2008 and quoted him: “I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.”
President Obama, has a lifetime disposition of seeking to find common ground between people. He promotes sincere respect within a healthy discussion of issues, including faith, in our pluralistic society.
To achieve this goal, he believes that, during public debate, religious people should translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. [Whitehouse.gov] He has also been pointedly frank about telling liberals that they “must put aside any religious biases, and reach out to others, including evangelical Christians, as a reconciling essential in a democracy.” [June 28, 2006]
We may, in our pursuit of happiness, seek out and associate within communities of people like ourselves. However, this does not diminish our responsibility to respect, honor, and defend those with different faiths.
We should take care to not aggressively thrust our private values or religious symbols into the face of others. The fact that the faiths of others are different from our own does not mean that they are without values or have no goodness.
It is precisely our diversity that, bound together like a bundle of sticks, strengthens our nation to bend without breaking. We should be determined to treat all neighbors as we would want them to treat us – to, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all men.
©2012, David Satterlee